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America’s Space Shuttles Were Doomed To Fail

Op-Ed: The United States has little reason to celebrate the end of its 30-year-old space shuttle program, according to France’s Le Monde. The 1970s-era space ships accomplished little and cost far too much – both in terms of dollars and human lives.

Space Shuttle Columbia STS-1 launch, April 12, 1981 (NASA)
Space Shuttle Columbia STS-1 launch, April 12, 1981 (NASA)
Jerôme Fenoglio

In the end, a handful of achievements in orbit were not enough to make up for the high costs and risks of America's space shuttles. The longest dead-end in its space exploration, it is a failure, nevertheless, that the United States is most proud of.

With the scheduled return to Earth next week of Atlantis, the era of the space shuttle will officially come to an end, 30 years after the inaugural flight on April 12, 1981 of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Of these last three decades of coming and going in the cosmos, the United States will only want to remember the "extraordinary accomplishments' that their president, Barack Obama, has just celebrated. They will boast about the fact that the space shuttle was a technical achievement at a time when the engineers who designed it still worked with slide-rules. And, even though the development of digital simulation and ultra-powerful computers make the space shuttles now look like magnificent flying anachronisms, they survived.

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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